Seattle Police receive $600,000 federal grant for body cameras

Today, the United Stated Department of Justice (DOJ) awarded the Seattle Police Department (SPD) a $600,000 grant to implement an expanded body-worn camera program.

“Today’s announcement by the Justice Department is a huge boost to the Seattle Police Department’s efforts to improve community policing and strengthen accountability,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “We know body cameras reduce the number of complaints against officers and reduce the use of force by police. I am proud of Seattle’s continued leadership as a national model for police reform.”

Earlier this year, SPD conducted its own six-month pilot of body-worn camera equipment and made some of the recorded footage available to the public on a YouTube channel. Seattle police also participated in the White House Police Data Initiative as part of an overall effort to enhance transparency and accountability in law enforcement.

In the coming months, the department will further develop the policies and protocols for the cameras with a broad range of community stakeholders, including Seattle Police Officers Guild, the Department of Justice, the federal monitor, the Community Police Commission and others.

“Body-worn video technology is incredibly important to our communities and our officers,” said Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole. “We are grateful for this assistance from the Department of Justice, and are excited to continue our work enhancing transparency, accountability, and community trust.”

“I have said this from day one that body cameras are a game changer for police accountability, public safety, and as a training tool to improve policing performance,” said Seattle Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee.  “Police accountability advocates such as Campaign Zero, Seattle legislative districts and community leaders have asked for body cameras and this is great news.  On behalf of the Council, I thank President Obama and his administration for allocating this funding.  We will work towards complete funding in the upcoming budget process. Without question, our work continues building stronger community ties but it starts with clear impartial video evidence of police and civilian interactions. Body camera data from other police departments have seen use of force reduced by 60 percent.”

In today’s round of grant announcements, DOJ awarded $23.2 million to 73 local and tribal agencies in 32 states to expand the use of body-worn cameras and explore their impact. The grants, which require a 50/50 in-kind or cash match, can be used to purchase equipment and require that applicants establish a strong implementation plan and a robust training policy before purchasing cameras. The long term costs associated with storing this information will be the financial responsibility of each local agency.

For additional information from the Department of Justice, visit:

Statement on Seattle Police Monitor’s report

Mayor Murray issued the following statement after the Seattle Police Monitor today released his Fifth Semiannual Report on the progress the Seattle Police Department has made under the federal Consent Decree:

“For the second report in a row, the federal monitor describes SPD as demonstrating significant progress. We are developing the policies and training programs that support constitutional policing. While the report is not without criticism, I am proud of how far we have come.

“Chief Kathleen O’Toole continues to drive positive culture change at SPD. We continue to develop and improve use-of-force policies to ensure they reflect best practices and real-world situations. New training for our officers in de-escalating challenging situations and responding to people in crisis is generating praise from the monitor and positive attention from other departments. We will continue to improve our force review process, where we know there is more work to be done.

“Most importantly, we are working to ensure that force is used appropriately, even as our officers are actively fighting crime. Across our city, crime is down 12 percent in early 2015 – that’s admirable progress – during a period when we have experienced no officer-involved shootings. The increasing use of technology across the department, including body cameras and our crime tracking tool, SeaStat, is improving community policing.

“My vision is a department that is a national model for urban policing. In the words of the monitor, ‘There is still significant work ahead, but the SPD is positioned to be a leader in the national reform effort.’ Continued commitment from all the men and women of the department, as well as the gifted leadership of the chief and her executive team, will ensure we cross the goal line.”

Mayor, Chief announce new command staff at SPD

spd chiefsMayor Ed Murray and Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole today announced a major restructuring of the department’s command staff. Four new assistant chiefs and a chief information officer have been appointed to lead policing and reform efforts at the department.

“This reorganization of our command staff is an important step in our year-long effort to build a stronger police department,” said Mayor Ed Murray. “Each of these additions will support the department’s efforts to fight crime, comply with federally mandated court orders and build a national model for urban policing.”

The four new assistant chiefs include two candidates promoted internally and two candidates brought in from outside the department. Each has a strong track record of law enforcement leadership and innovation in his or her respective department and career assignments.

The two assistant chiefs promoted from within the Seattle Police Department are:

  • Captain Steve Wilske, currently the commander of the Southwest Precinct, will head Patrol Operations. Wilske has served for more than 28 years with the department in a variety of roles, including Homicide and Crime Scene Investigation, Force Investigation Team and significant time as both a patrol officer and sergeant in downtown Seattle.
  • Lieutenant Lesley Cordner, currently serving as the sworn Aide to the Chief, will head
    Compliance and Professional Standards. Cordner, who joined the department in 1989, has worked in Domestic Violence, North Precinct Operations and a variety of other assignments.

The two chiefs hired from outside of SPD are:

  • Superintendent Robert Merner, currently of the Boston Police Department, will head Investigations. Superintendent Merner has worked in the Investigative Bureau of BPD, holding every rank and a variety of assignments. Merner has been a leader in the field of interview and eyewitness accuracy, and has investigative experience ranging from drugs and gangs to homicide and forensics.
  • Perry Tarrant, currently the coordinator of the Gang Free Initiative in the City of Yakima, will head Special Operations and Homeland Security. Previously, Mr. Tarrant served for 34 years with the Tucson Police Department in a variety of roles both as an officer and a commander. Mr. Tarrant is the Vice President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives.

“I chose these four commanders because they are innovators who share my drive for progress and passion for public service” said Chief Kathleen O’Toole. “Together, we will continue to build on the foundation of reform laid over the last eight months.”

Additionally, SPD has hired a new Chief Information Officer, Greg Russell, to lead their efforts to improve police service and departmental transparency. “We could not be more excited about bringing Greg on board,” said Seattle Police Department Chief Operating Officer Mike Wagers. “His experiences developing new and innovative uses of technology will be pivotal as we strategically deploy data and technology to aid our officers in the field and improve service to our city.”

Russell will explore new ways to track and potentially predict crime by developing or implementing new technology tools that sort through vast amounts of crime data collected by the department. He will be responsible for information technology at the department, and the body worn video pilot project.

Russell worked at Amazon as a vice president who oversaw the company’s corporate applications, enterprise data warehouse and information technology.

Each of the assistant chiefs will earn $189,247 annually. Cordner and Wilske start March 11, while Merner and Tarrant start April 15. The new CIO will earn $180,000 annually, and starts March 17.

Murray and community leaders announce police accountability reforms

Police Accountability Reforms

Seattle Police Accountability & Civilian OversightStanding with City Council President Tim Burgess, Councilmember Bruce Harrell, Chief of Police Kathleen O’Toole, police accountability experts and community leaders, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray today announced a package of significant reforms to the City’s police discipline and accountability system.

“Our police accountability system has over the years become complicated and confusing to the public,” said Murray. “Today, we are announcing major reforms to bring greater fairness, independence and transparency to the police discipline and accountability system, and to rebuild public trust.”

Murray said that the proposed reforms would strengthen and streamline the accountability process while enhancing civilian oversight, including:

  • Making the Community Police Commission (CPC) the permanent civilian oversight body for police accountability in the City;
  • Consolidating the Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) case file review function in the OPA Auditor, and incorporating other functions of the OPA Review Board into the CPC;
  • Strengthening the independence of the OPA; and
  • Implementing a large number of recommendations offered by CPC earlier this year to maximize transparency and public trust.

Of the 55 recommendations for reform offered by the CPC, almost two-thirds have either already been implemented or are in the process of being implemented, according to Murray.

Murray said his office will send legislation to the City Council for its consideration in early 2015, which is also when the City will be entering into labor negotiations with the Seattle Police Officers’ Guild and the Seattle Police Management Association.

“I intend for the City to work with unions in the negotiation process to achieve substantial improvements of our accountability system,” said Murray. “Those discussions will use as a starting point many of the recommendations made by my special advisor Dr. Bernard Melekian, the OPA Auditor and the Community Police Commission.”

“A stronger and more transparent accountability system will support our officers and improve public safety in our city,” said Council President Tim Burgess. “But along with a systems change, the culture of accountability within the police department must also change. The women and men of the police department will thrive in a culture that properly rewards them for excellence and fairly holds them accountable when they can do better.”

“A good accountability system is one that is trusted by the public. The disciplinary review process should be straightforward, transparent, timely, and lead to better training for officers,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee. “I applaud the Mayor for committing resources to revamp the system and proposing these reform recommendations. The Public Safety Committee will go through a diligent review of the proposal to ensure this is the best police accountability system moving forward and is supported by the community.”

“The Seattle Police Department is committed to reform, accountability and using best practices in policing,” said Chief O’Toole. “We support these proposed changes as another step toward rebuilding public trust.”

Murray noted that the federal monitoring team characterized the reform recommendations as “excellent progress on implementing reform.”

The reform recommendations can be read in full here.

Press conference video

Mayor Murray’s remarks at Chief O’Toole’s Swearing-In Ceremony

Confirmation and swearing in of Chief Kathleen O'Toole“First of all, I want to thank Councilmember Bruce Harrell and the entire City Council for their action today. “I also want to thank interim Chief Harry Bailey, for his leadership and commitment to the Seattle Police Department, his passion for protecting the people of Seattle, and his deep compassion for our communities. “And I want to welcome Chief Kathy O’Toole. “Again and again, I’ve been asked if I chose you because you’re a woman. And again and again, I’ve answered that, no, I chose you because you’re Irish. “But the fact is, I chose you because you’re the best. “Today, you inherit a police department that has gone through troubled times. A group of good men and women who everyday put their lives on the line for the safety of the people of this city, and who deserve the strong and clear leadership that I have every confidence you will provide. “In the end, public safety is not about a chief of police or a police force by itself – it is about all of us assuming our responsibility as a community for our community. “Together, we as a city are excited to begin a new day for public safety in Seattle. “Congratulations, Kathy, on becoming Seattle’s new Chief of Police.”

Watch the Seattle Channel video:

Federal Police Monitor submits Seattle Police Department’s training plan to court

SPDMayor Murray announced today that two major training programs developed by the Seattle Police Department, endorsed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, have been recommended by Federal Police Monitor Merrick Bobb and submitted to U.S. District Court Judge James Robart for approval.

If approved by the Court, all 1,300 sworn officers of the Seattle Police Department will undergo instruction on how best to respond to calls involving a person in a mental health crisis, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or other severe behavioral emergencies by the end of 2014. SPD Dispatchers will also be trained to recognize calls for assistance involving persons in crisis to provide guidance to responding officers. A select group of officers will receive further specialized training and take control of the scene involving an individual in crisis.

Murray said he is especially pleased with the crisis intervention training program. “Studies indicate as many as 70 percent of use-of-force incidents involve people in crisis,” he said. “This training will help officers take control of situations and diffuse them, which will reduce the need for force.”

City Attorney Pete Holmes praised the police department work on the training programs. “This is an extraordinary accomplishment and provides a clear path forward on training,” Holmes said.

U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan said the training programs marks a significant milestone in reforming the Seattle Police Department.

“The police department appreciates the hundreds of hours of great thinking by many individuals who contributed to these training programs,” said Seattle Police Captain and West Precinct Commander Chris Fowler, who led the effort for the department on developing the CIT policies and training program.

The department developed the crisis intervention training program with the assistance of an all-volunteer committee of mental and behavioral experts, advocates, academics, outside law enforcement representatives and legal experts, along with officials from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission and expert consultants from the DOJ and Monitoring Team.

“This is great accomplishment that builds on prior work and we look forward to the training getting underway,” said Graydon Andrus, Director of Clinical Programs for the Downtown Emergency Services Center. “We think people will notice a difference in the street – police officers will be better prepared and people in crisis will receive needed assistance,” said Michael Reading, Director of Crisis Services at the Crisis Clinic.

The crisis intervention training will be conducted in phases to ensure that all officers attend an initial 8-hour course as soon as possible.  In subsequent phases, all officers will receive additional training and some will receive specialized training.

The Court is also being asked to approve a street skills training program in which all 1,300 officers will receive instruction on use of force, including the core principles of the new use of force policies, decision-making, team tactics and de-escalation. Officers will also receive integrated instruction on legal, policy and ethical principles. They will be taught techniques to identify, assess and resolve calls in a legal, safe and efficient manner.

In filings with the Court, Bobb said both training programs rely on national best practices and represents a significant accomplishment for the department. The DOJ’s consultant, Robert Davis, the former chief of Police of San Jose and former president of the Major City Chief’s Conference, assisted SPD in developing the use of force training manual.

‘Ask the Mayor’ to focus on public safety, feature police chief nominee

Mayor Murray announces Kathleen O'Toole as his nominee for Seattle's next Chief of PoliceThe next episode of Seattle Channel’s ‘Ask the Mayor‘ will air Thursday, June 26 at 7 p.m. The Q&A show, which is filmed in front of a live audience, covers a range of city issues in the first 30 minutes and then switches to a focused topic for the second half.

The June 26th taping will focus on public safety and the Mayor will be joined by his nominee for police chief, Kathleen O’Toole. In addition to discussing the recent tragic gun violence Seattle has experienced, they will address neighborhood crime, progress on police reform and more.

O’Toole, whose appointment by the mayor is expected to be approved by the Seattle City Council on June 23, would be the first female to lead the city’s police department. A former Boston police commissioner, O’Toole is currently a public-safety consultant. She served as Boston’s first female police commissioner from 2004 to 2006, then until 2012 as chief inspector of the Irish national police.

There is no cost to attend the live Ask the Mayor broadcast, however seating is limited and advance registration is strongly encouraged. Register online at or call (206) 684-8821. Doors open at 6 p.m. with audience instructions at 6:45 p.m. The live show is 7 to 8 p.m.

Can’t join the conversation in person? Watch live on Seattle Channel cable 21 or online at To submit questions in advance or during the live broadcast, e-mail, tweet @SeattleChannel using the hashtag #AskTheMayor or comment on Facebook at

Ask the Mayor
7 p.m., Thursday, June 2
New Holly Gathering Hall
7054 32nd Ave. S.
Reserve your spot

Mayor Murray responds to police officer filing in federal court

Mayor Murray today released the following statement in response to the federal lawsuit filed by some members of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) contesting SPD’s use-of-force policy:

“I have not yet had the chance to review the lawsuit and it would be inappropriate for me to comment at this time.

But I will say: the Seattle Police Department is under a federally-mandated court order, in part because of a disturbing pattern of unnecessary use of force and other forms of unconstitutional policing.

The police department will comply with that court order. The City of Seattle will not fight the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. This is not the 1960s.

I have nominated a new police chief to start work in a few short weeks, and her top priority will be to meet the requirements of the federal court order and make Seattle’s police force a national model for urban policing.”

Mayor Murray nominates Kathleen O’Toole for Chief of Police

Mayor Murray announces Kathleen O'Toole as his nominee for Seattle's next Police Chief

Mayor Murray today announced Kathleen O’Toole as his nominee for chief of the Seattle Police Department.

“I made a commitment to find the best possible chief of police for Seattle, and that’s exactly what I have found in Kathleen O’Toole,” said Murray. “The Seattle police department deserves the best leadership possible to drive ongoing reform efforts – not for the sake of reform, and not even for the sake of compliance with the federal court, but because all individuals in this city deserve to feel safe and protected in their communities. We can be a national model for urban policing, and Kathleen O’Toole is the right choice to lead us there.”

“I am humbled and excited to have this extraordinary opportunity,” said O’Toole, who, if confirmed, would be Seattle’s first female chief of police. “I look forward to working with Mayor Murray, members of the Seattle Police Department and the community to restore trust and develop a police service second to none.”

O’Toole is a career police officer who has risen through the ranks of local and state policing. During her police career, she was assigned to numerous patrol, investigative, undercover, and supervisory and management positions, including service as Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety (1994) and Boston Police Commissioner (2004). She was the first woman appointed to both positions.

O’Toole is also a lawyer who has earned an international reputation for her principled leadership and reform strategies. In 2012, O’Toole completed a six-year term as Chief Inspector of the Garda Siochana Inspectorate, an oversight body responsible for bringing reform and accountability to the 17,000 member Irish national police service.

“I want to thank interim Chief Harry Bailey, who came out of a well-earned retirement to serve as my interim chief because of his dedication to the profession, to public safety, and to the people of Seattle,” said Murray. “For this, he has my profound gratitude, the gratitude of this police department and of this city.

Bailey will continue in his role while O’Toole undergoes the Council confirmation process over the coming weeks. O’Toole’s targeted start date is June 23.

More about O’Toole and the search process for Seattle’s next Chief can be found here and more photos from today are available on our Flickr page.

Mayor Murray statement on Seattle Police enforcement patterns

Mayor Murray released the following statement today regarding a presentation given to the Community Police Commission about Seattle Police enforcement patterns:

“The preliminary statistics in the Seattle Police Department’s presentation to the Community Police Commission today are deeply concerning to me.

They appear to support what many in the community have told us from first-hand experience: that, over a relatively small number of years, there has been a steep decline in proactive enforcement activity in Seattle. The report also suggests that people of color disproportionately make up those who are frequently cited or arrested for certain types of crimes or violations, although we still need a more thorough understanding of what exactly this raw data reflects.

These findings deserve further investigation by the Community Police Commission, the Police Department and my office.

I want to thank the Commission for working cooperatively with SPD to focus on these issues. My administration and our next police chief will be committed to learning more about what this data suggests for effective policing in Seattle. Analysis of disparate impacts is a useful tool to analyze whether the community is receiving the law enforcement services it deserves.

I have repeatedly stated that my goal is to see that the Seattle Police Department becomes a national model for urban policing, and, on Monday, I will announce my selection for Seattle’s new chief of police. This analysis, and the lessons we learn from it, will help us achieve that end.”

View the presentation: